Author Topic: Educate me on finishing furniture  (Read 678 times)

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Offline Gunder

  • Posts: 29
Educate me on finishing furniture
« on: July 07, 2020, 05:25 PM »
With my projects (mostly cabinets in the past) I feel that the last stage of the project (finishing) is where I can improve the most.  I am in the process of building a new set of night stands with african mahogany, birds eye maple and sapele.  So looking to improve on my finishing and would love some advice.

Typically, I sand with 80, 100 or 120, then 220, 320 and finally 400 before staining, then I usually apply a wipe on polyurethane (sanding with 800 between coats).  Is there a better sequence for the sanding and do you polish the polyurethane to get that ultra smooth finish?

FWIW, I have a Rotex 90 and 125, plus a pro 5 and RTS 400 sanders,

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Offline TwelvebyTwenty

  • Posts: 86
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2020, 05:52 PM »
I always find that the simpler you can keep your workflow when it comes to finishing the better. Whenever possible I tend to use Osmo Poly X, or similar like Fiddes Hard Wax Oil. I sand to 150, 180 or 240 depending on which timber and how open the grain is, and give a quick de-nib with a Scotch pad between coats and as a final step for matt or satin finishes. The results are always really nice.

I struggled with finishing from a tedioum/boredom perspective for a long time, and it was something I never looked forward to. The above workflow with Osmo Poly X changed all that, and now it's a relatively quick, and satisfying process.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 06:10 PM by TwelvebyTwenty »

Offline rst

  • Posts: 2418
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2020, 07:13 PM »
I've been staining things since 1971, don't sand past 150, the stain needs to sink in.  I started my wood butcher career in 1971 in a custom kitchen factory...Wood Mode, kitchens back then averaged $15,000.00.  Everything excepting pine, which will blotch badly, was sprayed with water to open the grain for stain to absorb, sprayed with sanding sealer, sanded with 320, sprayed again with lacquer, sanded with 400, sprayed again with lacquer, sanded with 600 and polished with Johnson's floor wax.  I still just the same process even with water based finishes.

Offline Josh2

  • Posts: 43
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2020, 08:51 PM »
Just ordered some Osmo PolyX Satin and Matt (3031 and 3043). Can't wait to try it. How much does it amber the wood?
Are you also using Rubio monocoat? I have been using 5% White monocoat alot, which basically offsets the amber effect of monocoat Pure. Too much for me. I hope that Osmo PolyX is more neutral.
And one more question: you don't buff Osmo PolyX, right?

I always find that the simpler you can keep your workflow when it comes to finishing the better. Whenever possible I tend to use Osmo Poly X, or similar like Fiddes Hard Wax Oil. I sand to 150, 180 or 240 depending on which timber and how open the grain is, and give a quick de-nib with a Scotch pad between coats and as a final step for matt or satin finishes. The results are always really nice.

I struggled with finishing from a tedioum/boredom perspective for a long time, and it was something I never looked forward to. The above workflow with Osmo Poly X changed all that, and now it's a relatively quick, and satisfying process.

Offline CeeJay

  • Posts: 133
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2020, 07:31 AM »
I don’t buff Osmo very much. A light hand polish with a clean dry cloth or sheepskin after the second coat is dry is all.


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Offline AstroKeith

  • Posts: 93
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2020, 08:41 AM »
My tastes have changed either with my age or fashion, not sure which!

I almost invariably prefer a 'natural' finish now, with open grain and plenty of texture. Two coats of Fiddes Hard Wax oil (matt) is my goto finish. Never seem to need finer than 180. I use a lot of oak and ash and maybe that has influenced me, but sapele too.

Of course I may be influenced by how easy it is to apply and get a great result!

This wouldn't suit reproduction furniture etc,.
Retired engineer/scientist

Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 930
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2020, 10:07 AM »
My process is time intensive, so it wouldn't do for most commercial work, but I like the results for one-off woodworking projects.


First, I sand to 600 grit dry.  Occasionally I sand to 1000 or 1500 dry.  Sometimes I leave it at that, sometimes I wet sand as I'm applying oil.  I'll go up to between 1000 and 2000 when wet sanding.


I'm a big fan of sanding to high grits because it brings out the fine detail in the wood.  However, for that to be meaningful, you have to be working on a scale where people will see the fine detail.  Nice custom furniture pieces meet the criteria for me, kitchen cabinets do not, unless you are doing something out of the ordinary with the wood.   I don't use stain if I can avoid it, as I normally choose wood carefully and don't want stain to get in the way.  My goal is to take advantage of the natural features of the grain, and I think stain obscures those features.



I use mixes of polyurethane, linseed oil, and orange oil (as a mineral spirits replacement - smells a lot better).  First coats are high on orange oil (40%) and linseed oil (40%).  Later coats are high on polyurethane (50%).  For things that don't have to be water resistant, I generally do 4-6 coats of oil and 2 coats of BriWax.  If I want to be super compulsive, I may do a couple of extra coats to wet sand to 2000 grit.  Overall, my goal is to get a finish that is part of the wood, rather than sitting on top.


One of the big advantages of this kind of finish is that is is easily renewable.  I have several very nice pieces of furniture that I have re-oiled and waxed (one a couple of times) due to grandchild wear and tear.  I even was able to take some water marks off.  They still look fantastic.


Note that I wouldn't recommend this for architectural woodwork or kitchen cabinets.  Besides the fact that it's too time intensive, I don't think that the oil finish would hold up to a kitchen environment.  I did some custom book matched #3 cherry panels for a set of kitchen cabinet doors that I did sand to 800 grit, but I ended up putting a hard finish on them. 


I've never tried Osmo, but I'd like to at some point.  I'm also intrigued by catalyzed oil finishes like Rubio, but I'd want to experiment with that and it's pretty expensive stuff to experiment with.


And... if Festo ever expands their robotic lines to include a sanding/finishing robot, and I win the lottery, I'll be all in :).


Offline TwelvebyTwenty

  • Posts: 86
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2020, 10:32 AM »
Given the high grits you sand to, have you ever tried applying a coat of your chosen finish before starting the sanding process (or at least before reaching the especially high grits), in order to get a deeper absorption?
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 10:34 AM by TwelvebyTwenty »

Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 930
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2020, 03:04 PM »
Given the high grits you sand to, have you ever tried applying a coat of your chosen finish before starting the sanding process (or at least before reaching the especially high grits), in order to get a deeper absorption?


I have.  It looks like it does at the time, but some of that is absorption into fibers that end up being sanded off at higher wet-sand  grits.  That said, I haven't actually done a side by side comparison on the same board.  Maybe I should try that sometime.


The reason that I don't stop at 220 (which seems to be a popular stopping point) is that I can tell the difference in detail when I sand with higher grits.  To see an example, take a piece of quartersawn cherry with visible quartersawn flecks and sand one section to 220 and another to 600 or higher.  You can see the flecks at 220, but they are a little fuzzy.  At 600 not only are the flecks more defined, but you can see some detail in individual flecks.  That makes a subtle but (to me) noticeable difference in the way the overall board looks.  The difference is only significant if a viewer's eye will be drawn to it.


Offline Michael Kellough

  • Posts: 4820
Re: Educate me on finishing furniture
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2020, 03:50 PM »
As Harvey says the finer the grain the higher the grit, if you want to see the subtle stuff.

Pine (other than the species with graphic figure like yellow pine) looks very nice sanded to 320 or above and then simply waxed. Not much protection from anything but it looks good.